“The situation is serious. Take it seriously. Never since the reunification of Germany, even since World War II, has our country been faced with a challenge that depends so much on our collective solidarity,” the Chancellor said.
Although Merkel’s 15 years as Chancellor have included shocks such as the financial crisis, the 2015 migration crisis and the Brexit, she has so far not directly addressed citizens on television beyond the traditional New Year greetings.
“I truly believe that we can succeed in this task if all citizens truly understand their mission,” said Merkel.
Germany has closed schools, many businesses and public places in recent days in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. However, it has not forced people to stay at home, as opposed to the stricter restrictions imposed in France, Belgium, Italy and Spain.
The Germans have continued to go outside to enjoy the spring sun and socialize, even with “corona parties”.
Although Merkel did not announce more stringent measures in her speech, she said it could change at any time.
The NTV broadcaster and several German newspapers called Merkel’s speech a “final warning” to prevent compulsory self-isolation. Tabloid “Bild” described this speech as “historic.”
Originally from the former Communist-ruled East Germany, Merkel said she understands how difficult it is to give up hard-won rights such as freedom of movement and travel.
She said that in a democracy, such decisions are never easy and can only be temporary. “But right now they are needed to save lives.”
Germany resumed border controls with France, Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg and Switzerland on Monday, denying people entry for no good reason. The Home Office extended those restrictions to European air and sea traffic on Wednesday evening.
In Germany, 8,198 new coronavirus infections were confirmed by Wednesday, including 1,042 last-day and 12 deaths.
The Robert Koch Institute, the German government’s agency responsible for disease control, has warned that in two to three months the number of infections could rise to 10 million if people do not avoid physical contact.
Merkel said “Germany has a great health system,” but “” even our hospitals will be overloaded if too many patients with serious coronavirus symptoms are admitted within a short period of time. ”